Its umbrellas all the way down

The NREN world is changing. It used to be that you could get away with running a network and a decent ftp-server and that would be good enough.

Not so much anymore. NRENs are turning into service portfolios with a network. For some the transition is relatively painless and quick, for others less so.

Travelling at different speeds causes tensile stress between NRENs. There is a natural tendency from the governance layer to try to address this top-down. Often by adding more governance.

Recently both eduGAIN and eduroam has been the focus of this special form of Loving Care.

Beyond creating work for process consultants, adding governance layers seldom adds real value.

Let me explain…

An federation exchange point – like eduGAIN or Kalmar2 – is a lot like an Internet eXchange point (aka an IX). An IX that operates on a free market is mostly controlled by two forces: the value of the connected services pull customers to the IX and the cost of getting and staying connected to the IX push customers away from the IX.

Any clueful IX – like netnod, LINX or AMS-IX – is operated by an entity that understand that the value of the IX lie in the connected customers. Some even go as far as to call their customers members and allow them significant control over policy and direction.

In other words: governance follows the money!

The current governance model for eduGAIN and eduroam is based on the same idea: funding members control the service and this has to date implied a central role for GEANT. Some see this as a problem as eduGAIN and eduroam expand beyond the EU.

Fair enough!

Adding governance to address this largely imaginary problem is hardly the answer though. Adding layers just adds wasteful complexity and ignores the following two facts:

  1. Building a Federation eXchange point no longer involves black magic. The knowledge is widely available. There are at least 10 groups in the world today that could build another eduGAIN.
  2. Unlike an IX, a Federation-IX doesn’t depend on geography, economy or scale: almost anyone can build one. If you can attract services you win. Kalmar2 is proof that this is both practical, cheap and easy.

To those who are hesitant about the governance of eduGAIN I say this: join up and demand representation. Your voice will be heard or me and a lot of others will help you build a new eduGAIN down the road from the old one.

We’ve done it once, we can do it again. It will be done in a New York minute.

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